Artistic ambitions

Visit Bucks celebrates National Disability Awareness Month with exhibit by Skyler Granville, who has cerebral palsy

Down by the river: In honor of National Disability Awareness month, Bensalem resident Skyler Granville, who has cerebral palsy, will be the featured artist at the Bucks County Visitor Center. His paintings will be on display from Sept. 8-Nov. 1. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

In many ways, Skyler Granville is just like any average 23-year-old. He enjoys watching movies, swimming at the YMCA of Bucks County and browsing the Internet. But in other ways, Granville is far from typical.

The resident of Bensalem has cerebral palsy, a condition that has left him wheelchair-bound and incapable of verbal speech. Still, Granville isn’t letting one diagnosis stand in the way of him living his best life.

On a regular basis, he practices what’s been a deep passion for the past 15 years – painting. Though grasping a brush in his hand is difficult, Granville craftily found the perfect alternative. He dips his toes in paint and lets the creative juices flow, with dozens of colorful masterpieces under his belt.

Currently, Granville is preparing for the opportunity of a lifetime, and a chance to showcase his talents to a fresh population of art lovers. From Sept. 8-Nov. 1, in honor of National Disability Awareness month in October, more than 20 of his paintings will be on display at the Bucks County Visitor Center in “Elements of Art – An Exhibit of Abstract Acrylic Art by Skyler Granville.”

Ahead of the exhibit’s opening, The Times sat down with Granville, who shared his thoughts by speaking through a Dynavox communicator. The device has pre-installed responses, and he makes selections by hitting a scroll button with his knee.

For Granville, it’s exciting for the public to see the fruits of his labor, which include a portrait of his family. When asked to pick his favorite piece, it was impossible for him to decide.

“I like them all,” he said.

“Elements of Art” is Granville’s third exhibit. The first took place after high school graduation at a bagel shop in South Philadelphia, and the second was several weeks ago at an art show hosted by Philadelphia Intellectual disAbility Services. At the latter, Granville was able to display some of his latest creations.

“His new artwork seems to have much more color to it, a variety of colors, I think,” said Diane Williams, owner and director of Help-U-Bridge, the agency that supports Granville. “He seems to have moved into a different palette.”

Granville was inspired to begin painting by his art teacher, Eiko Fan Takahira, at HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy in Philadelphia. At the mention of Takahira’s name, Granville beamed from ear-to-ear. Since graduating, he has continued to hone his craft at the Kardon Institute for Arts Therapy, also in Philadelphia.

“Whoever is working with him, the art teacher or therapist, they’ll give him choices of colors, textures and mixtures,” Williams explained.

The Visit Bucks County exhibit will be comprised of paintings made from various mediums, including unlikely materials such as duct tape.

According to Williams, the process of working with VBC began last year when Granville and Help-U-Bridge staff reached out to Gloria Shaffer, industry relations assistant.

“This art show has been really great because of all the preparation that we’ve had to go through. It’s been a tough decision which pieces he’s going to show,” Williams said. “He’s got some large pieces and then a couple small. A nice variety.”

While Granville’s art will be for sale, the public can also support his work through a donation to the art program at HMS School by visiting hmsschool.org. When making a donation, comment that it should be directed to the art program. This will ensure that individuals like Granville have the chance to artistically express themselves.

The artist shared some words of advice for anyone who thinks they can’t create because of a disability.

“It’s important to make art,” he said. “Paint. Try it. Make art. Use your feet.” ••

Granville will host an artist’s reception on Sunday, Sept. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Bucks County Visitor Center, 3207 Street Road, Bensalem. “Elements of Art” will be on display daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The exhibit is free to attend. For more information, email Granville at skyler5930@gmail.com, visit his Instagram page @skylergranville9501 or go to visitbuckscounty.com

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com